“Do not bite.”

A new Costco Warehouse is going up across town, and Husband and I (lackadaisical shoppers if ever there were any) have been looking forward to having it here.  We tell ourselves somewhat self-righteously that belonging to Costco will somehow be “better” than belonging to Sam’s Club, as if the Costco corporate empire is any less reprehensible than the Walmart one.

Does anyone really need this much stuff?
Does anyone really need this much stuff?

These are the questions that torment us earnest do-gooder consumer-guilt-ridden save-the-earth types:  I really, really want a nice big leg of lamb to grill for Easter dinner, but I really, really don’t want to pay the nice big price my local butcher is asking for it.  And Sam’s does have really good sinfully cheap lamb.

No worries – tempting as it is, I won’t start ranting about the sinful lamb of godlike Sam.

I know how spoiled I am, fretting about the cost of premium lamb when there are people who’ll be lucky to eat peanut butter on Easter Sunday.

They won’t be doing that in New Mexico, though.  Almost a million jars of perfectly good peanut butter were ignominiously dumped at a New Mexico landfill last week.  A bankrupt peanut-processing plant was being sold; the hasty removal of 950,000 jars of peanut butter stored there was a stipulation of the sale.

It was Costco peanut butter, made with $2.8 million worth of Costco peanuts.  Costco refused to take delivery of it.  Costco further refused to let it be donated to food banks or re-labeled and sold to brokers who supply various institutions.

This is the kind of bureaucratic idiocy that drives me beyond the pale:  Hunger is epidemic, and 25 tons of high-quality long-shelf-life protein is thrown in the garbage over procedural paperwork protocols.

Without jelly, what's the point?
Without jelly, what’s the point?

No worries – tempting as it is, I won’t start ranting about the sinful environmental disaster those 950,000 jars represent.  But Costco people should by rights have been down there with spatulas, emptying them out one by one to rinse and recycle.  They should have been forced to trash all that food in person.  It’s like murder, which should always be a hands-on messy sort of affair.  None of this impersonal drone killing.  None of this impersonal distance dump trucking.

OK, so I did wander off for a moment there.  I meant to discuss my own bureaucratic garbage.

I have two employee ID badges.  One is specific to the building where I work.  The other is issued by the school district.  That one is key-coded to allow electronic access to the building.

My district tag, eight years old, developed a slow crack and finally stopped opening the door.  This is a real problem, since if you can’t unlock the doors by the staff parking lot you have to hustle 1/2 mile around the building to the main entrance (not that a 1/2 mile walk would hurt me in any way; too many peanut-butter-and-dill-pickle sandwiches).  The alternative is to stand pathetically at the door, peering in like a bedraggled wet beagle begging to come out of the rain and waiting for some scornful student or scolding administrator to let you in.

Back in the day, someone down in our main office would back you up against the wall, stick a camera a foot away from your nose, snap a terrible photo, and call it good.

And just where is your ID, mister?

That, alas, is no longer the case.  First, I am told to call the district office.  The district office tells me that those badges are now ordered by our on-site office manager. Our on-site office manager says that those duties have been passed to a departmental secretary, someone who exudes negativity from the seeming depths of hell and whose goal is to squelch you before you can even say hello.  Anytime anyone has to deal with this person, they sigh heavily and procrastinate and then gird their loins, ready to be attacked and thwarted and demeaned and ultimately unsuccessful in whatever perfectly reasonable request they have.

I smile into the phone when I call her, forcing warmth into my voice.  I explain my predicament as pleasantly as possible and make a plea for her assistance.  I do about as much fawning as I can without throwing up.

Her first words are mouth-puckering sour: “You are going to have to pay for it.”

“That’s just fine,” I say, grateful in a way for consistency and the fact that I knew perfectly well how this would go.  She does not say just how much she’ll make me pay.

“And I won’t order it until you have a new picture taken,” says she.

“No problem,” I say.  “I had an official staff photo taken just this fall.  It’s in the database.”

“I won’t use that,” she states.  “You have to go out to the district office and have a new photo taken.”  Now, the district office is at the opposite corner of the city.  Going out there involves a half-hour trip each way.  It’s not on the way to anything.

"Do I even exist?" she asked, blankly.
“Do I even exist?” she asked, blankly.

So I give her the thrill she’s been waiting for:  I beg. “Can’t our security officer take a new picture, then?” I ask.  “Can’t you do it for me?”

“NO,” she answers.  Saying she was curt would be going way out of my way to make her seem polite.  “You have to go out there.  I won’t order the badge until you go out there and take care of it.”  I breathe deeply and make elaborate plans to slowly strangle her, a hands-on messy sort of affair I will enjoy very much.

Can’t you hear that same discussion at Costco?  Some underling suggests that a million jars of peanut butter might better be resold or donated – perhaps even to the Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico, located en route to the dump from the plant — and some tight-lipped petty bureaucrat puffs up to bark, “NO?”

My new ID tag (when it arrived after a vindictive delay) came wrapped in a bright orange list of printed instructions:  “Do not use as an ice-scraper. Do not machine wash.  Do not iron or subject to flame.  Do not pound with a pen or tool. Do not poke with sharp objects.”

And, my favorite:  “Do not bite.”   Really.  I couldn’t make this stuff up.

Perhaps they put that on the peanut butter, too.

Thanks for reading! Missy
Thanks for reading!

Slop Bucket on the Bucket List

How is one to proffer a modest proposal about something as immodest as poop?

sign3I’ve long heard that rich innovative entrepreneur types are able to spot trends on the ground – as obvious as dog droppings — and immediately capitalize on them.  I’ve spotted one, by God, and it isn’t pretty.  But, with the right backing, I’ll be able to retire from my grunt day job just by monetizing our collective grunting.

Ex-realtor Robin Speronis of Cape Coral, Florida, has been endeavoring to live “off the grid” within city limits for the past year and a half.  Good for her, in theory — she has survived using solar energy, a propane camping stove, and rain water, and by eating non-perishable food.

She has, however, been using the municipal sewer system without paying for it.  This has upset the city of Cape Coral, Florida, which is responsible for maintaining that system even for citizens who choose to lug in buckets of rainwater for filling and flushing their toilets.  The city of Cape Coral, Florida, has therefore decided to cap Ms. Speronis’ sewer, a move she says is “pure evil.”

No worries — I won’t go off into yet another tiresome discussion of good vs. evil or God vs. Satin (sic).  We’ll stay in the sewers today, and allow Robin her excesses – at least in terms of vocabulary.

"Cap my sewer, will you?"
“Cap my sewer, will you?”

“I know how to live off the grid completely and in a sanitary way,” Speronis said. She plans to dispose of solid waste “the way dog owners dispose of pet waste.”  She’ll collect liquid waste in containers and then use it to water the garden. She calls this “a simple and sanitary alternative.”

This woman is planning to poop in the yard, pick it up in a baggie, and then toss it into the trash can.  She is planning to squat over the rose bushes to water them.  When the weather’s bad, perhaps she’ll empty a chamber pot into the street gutter; what was good enough for medieval London should be good enough for Cape Coral.

One person doing this is probably not going to compromise the water table or spread dysentery and cholera, especially if she stays on her own benighted property (I am picturing the tired frozen yards of New England dog owners who don’t do much by way of poop scooping until spring hits and a winter’s worth of sad stale turd starts thawing).  But Cape Coral would be in a world of shit if everyone else followed her lead.

Husband and I go hiking every Sunday morning.  Looking up and out, we see the Rocky Mountains in all their glory.  Looking down, we see hermetically-sealed little plastic bags full of dog poop set alongside the path, baking in the sun, ostensibly waiting to be picked up by the bagger on his way back down the trail but more likely left there for someone else to deal with or kick to the side.

Imagine a mountain of those doggie bags preserved forever in the local landfill.  Now imagine Ms. Speronis taking a lifetime of dumps to the dump.  What will future archeologists make of all that carefully encased excrement?

Think Outside the Box
Think Outside the Box

Here’s the thing:  She might have stepped into something.  If Robin becomes a no-footprint live-green buck-the-system trend-setter, there will be a huge market for plastic People-Poo bags.  You heard it here, first: imagine designer colors, executive finishes, celebrity scents, monograms, and write-on space for dedications or acknowledgments.  Then, imagine the accessories market:  all those bags will need personalized portable dispensers – sporty, to clip on a bicycle; dressy, to coordinate with a haute couture handbag; techie, to hitch to your Otterbox iPhone cover; camo, for Duck Dynasty diehards.  What a business!  Cheap production!  Massive mark-up!  Bottomless demand!

And this, from an English major.  All I need is some crowd-sourcing.

Before you rally behind Speronis’ behind, you should know that she’s up to her neck in other messes, owing restitution of some $35,000 in real estate deposits she somehow forgot to return to her clients.  Oops!  A no-contest plea of larceny is involved, along with ten years of state probation.  Off the grid or behind a grid?  What’s a girl to do, but pee in the peonies?

And I confess to having done so myself on our mountain hikes — but only occasionally, and not in anything as pretty as peonies.  I lost all zest for au naturel living after squatting secretly behind a big boulder in tick season and sitting on a cactus, only to find a Sunday school group of earnest teens gazing up at me from the hidden path below, wearing their matching St. Tony’s T-shirts.

Thanks for reading! Missy
Thanks for reading!

Buckshot from Heaven

So where are all those guardian angels when you need them?  You dangle them from your car’s rear-view mirror, you buy gaudy God-y figurines, you wear 14-carat necklace wings, you send schmaltzy hellos with haloed greeting cards, you give Swarovski crystal-accented lapel pins to your loved ones for protection – and then you get shot in your own livingroom while leading an afternoon prayer meeting for your local church group.

It's only a flesh wound.
It’s only a flesh wound.

Mercifully, no-one is killed when a shotgun blast bursts through the ceiling of a Marion, OH, duplex this past week.  One elderly woman is struck in the leg, forearm and cheek. Another woman is hit in the right leg.  Police are quick to say that the injuries aren’t life-threatening, as if this exonerates the responsible gun owner upstairs who somehow discharged his weapon into the floor.

Does this also exonerate the guardian angels who’d apparently just stepped out for a quick cigarette?  Grandma has lead embedded in her face and they say, “Ooops!  My bad!”

I know that God is a very busy man.  I’ve been scolded about this for half a century, now, for the sake of my imperiled immortal soul.  The same god who counts every hair on our heads can’t be bothered with petty personal petitions.  He purports to love us, yet looks on with a yawn at our desperate and dire straits.

Without breaking a sweat, without so much as lifting a finger or batting an eye, God could put an instant end to all starvation and war and cruelty and pestilence and horror.  If He cared, that is.  He doesn’t.  And so I henceforth refuse to capitalize his pronouns.  That’ll show ‘im.

We’re supposed to bow down meekly and say, “Please, sir, may I have another?”  We’re supposed to accept abject suffering as part of god’s inscrutable divine plan.  What plan, god?  A bunch of pious old ladies holds an earnest little prayer meeting to further your glory and stroke your ego and ease their own terror of death, and you allow some woodchuck upstairs to take them out with a firearm he can’t control?

One false move and I stab you, kid.
One false move and I stab you, kid.

God as we like to imagine him – smiling, kindly, white-bearded, and loving, a fond grandfather type – is in fact a swarmy  sadist.  He gets his jollies watching our various agonies, like a little boy pulling the wings off flies or drowning ant colonies.  All that “he sacrificed his first begotten son for us” stuff?  Spare me.  The crucifixion is nothing but torture porn.   We on this earth are just extras in a big snuff film our lord and master tunes into for a turn-on now and then.

Here’s the thing:  Perhaps Satin won the epic battle between good and evil, and that’s who’s actually up there overseeing everything.

Yes, satin.  Its treacherous influence is everywhere.  But my mother counseled cotton long ago – I’m safe from such seductions.

I’ve inexplicably wound up on a wildly funny fundamentalist church insider email list.  The group does not realize that it is wildly funny.  It is in charge of Drama Ministry at a big JesusMart here in town.  It is working very hard to produce a skit for the Easter service.

Daringly, the scriptwriter is setting the Easter story in contemporary America.  Jesus is a rebellious gangster type with a heart of gold who at one point is supposed to appeal to Obama for mercy rather than to Pilate.  That idea got shot down faster than those old ladies in Ohio – there were reams of fervent correspondence about refusing to answer to foreign princes (much less liberal democratic African American ones who carry forged birth certificates), with quotes from the bible added carefully in red, in an Old English font.  God switched colored pencils to emphasize the good stuff, after all; we should all therefore play with The Word in Word.

Controversy within the Praiseworthy Players is now raging over the writers’ decision to kill their homeboy Jesus quickly, with a bullet, instead of making him suffer prolonged death throes on the cross (see “torture porn,” above).  The director of the skit division has quit over this heresy:

Rhett Butler, you's the very devil, you is.
Yours for $29.99.
Petticoat free with sale of soul.

“Even though it is *just a play* we need to stand firm.  As all Christians know there is NOT ONE THING that satin cant turn around and for the bad.”

The Players all have their panties in a bunch.  That’s what happens when satin is involved.  Perhaps that praying granny in Ohio was wearing one of Satin’s slips, and hence deserved what she got.  Her guardian angel was busy with a Victoria’s Secret photo shoot at the time.

Ultimately, it matters not whether our guardian angels are sent by god or the devil.  They are immortal intermediaries condemned to the eternal boredom of babysitting (yet more torture porn).  What good is being a godlike creature if you’re stuck watching me clean my toenails?  I’ve long resented the violation of my privacy by those prying spying eyes, and was absolutely horrified when Sister Mary Herman explained it all in third grade. “You mean they even watch me pee?” I blurted out, unwisely.  “Miss O’Brien!  Remember yourself! Drop and give me ten!”  She meant Hail Marys rather than push-ups, but it was still drill sergeant catechism.

Lately, I’ve begun seeing things from the angels’ point of view.  It’s no wonder they nod off now and then, or have one drink too many and get careless.  Since god’s not perfect, why should they have to be?

Peace to all who enter here.
Peace to all who enter here.

No evil shall befall you, nor shall affliction come near your tent, for to His Angels God has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.                                                                                         Psalms 91

I can handle dashing my foot against a stone, thank you, but wouldn’t mind a little help if bullets ever befall my tent.  Maybe the secret is NOT to pray in there.  The angels think god is paying attention, then, and relax their guard a bit.

Thanks for reading! Missy
Thanks for reading!